880 Military vs NWS weather warning process: Case study of 28 May 2015 New Mexico hailstorm

Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Calvin Elkins, United States Air Force, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ; and T. C. Richmond

On 5 May 2015, scattered thunderstorms associated with the southwestern US monsoonal flow began to form during the afternoon of 5 May 2015 across areas of eastern New Mexico. Most of the severe convective activity was forecast to be in extreme northeast and southeast New Mexico, not including Curry County or Cannon Air Force Base (AFB), therefore no watch was valid in the area. At 1423 Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), weather warnings for Curry County were issued by the National Weather Service (NWS). As the slow-moving storm grew, the US Air Force 25th Weather Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB issued a warning for Cannon AFB at 1430 MDT. A report of 1”-1.25” hail was reported at Cannon at approximately 1542 MDT. Both of these weather entities issued warnings with enough lead time for their customers to take necessary action.

This case study highlights a severe weather event that was well covered by both National Weather Service and Air Force meteorologists. The 28 May storms can be classified as a high-impact, moderate-confidence event since the Storm Prediction Center issued mesoscale discussions and weather watches near, but not inclusive of, the area. As the NWS and the military operate with different end goals, they use different forecast cycles, warning criteria, and lead time thresholds. By comparing and contrasting these factors, improvements can be made to the timeliness of warnings and the dissemination of important information to the public.

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